VANCOUVER EASTSIDE MISSING WOMEN
'Creepy' video of serial killer Robert Pickton released by inquiry
BY NEAL HALL, VANCOUVER SUN FEBRUARY 8, 2012
• Click here to see a video of the 2000 police interview with Robert Pickton
VANCOUVER -- The former lead RCMP investigator of serial killer Robert Pickton testified today that the police interview of Pickton in 2000 was not the best example of good police work.
"It certainly wasn't a textbook case on how to do an interview," Mike Connor told the Missing Women inquiry, which is probing why police didn't end Pickton's killing spree until 2002.
"It seemed a little strange to me," he said of the Jan. 19, 2000 interview done by RCMP Constables Ruth Yurkiw and John Cater.
"It was not how I would conduct the interview," Connor testified.
Connor recalled Pickton was his only suspect in the disappearance of dozens of women who vanished from the streets of Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.
He said he wished he would have caught "the break" that would have allowed him to put Pickton behind bars, but it never came before he was promoted on Aug. 20, 1999, when he was reluctantly taken off the case.
Even after he was no longer the lead investigator, Connor told the inquiry Wednesday, he sat in his car up to 30 times after midnight outside Pickton's farm in Port Coquitlam, hoping to catch Pickton in the act.
Connor recalled he watched the officers questioning Pickton in 2000 on a TV monitor in another room at the Coquitlam RCMP detachment.
Lawyer Cameron Ward, who is representing 25 families of murdered women, played a portion of the video this week at the inquiry.
The two-hour interview video was publicly released for the first time Wednesday.
It was never viewed by the jury at Pickton's murder trial in 2007, which ended with six murder convictions and Pickton being sent to prison for life.
The video showed Pickton was "creepy, lying, manipulative and self-serving," Ward suggested to Connor during cross-examination.
"All the above," the retired Mountie said. "I walked out of there knowing he wasn't telling the truth."
In the video, Pickton has a beard, long stringy hair and he's wearing a baseball cap and dirty sweater.
When he was asked about a 1997 knife attack of a Vancouver prostitute at his residence on his Port Coquitlam farm, Pickton blamed the woman for trying to steal his money - he said he had $3,500 cash on him.
"It was a terrifying event for me," Pickton told police, appearing irritated when talking about being stabbed by the woman.
"The little bitch almost killed me," Pickton said during the interview, using his hands to show police how the woman grabbed a knife and slashed him across the neck.
Pickton denied he ever took another prostitute to his residence, a filthy industrial-style trailer on a property littered with machinery, old vehicles and junk.
"That's the only time," Pickton said on the video.
Cater and Yurkiw told Pickton that a woman named Lynn Ellingsen said she saw Pickton one night butchering a women in a barn, located beside his trailer on the farm.
Pickton said he didn't know "nothin'" about that and suggested Ellingsen was just trying to get more money out of him, saying he had given her money in the past.
Before the interview, police had been told by an informant that Ellingsen was blackmailing Pickton for money to stay quiet about what she saw in the barn.
Police were also told by an informant that Pickton wanted to get someone to kill Ellingsen.
Yurkiw asked Pickton if he would allow police to search his trailer.
"Whatever," Pickton said. "Feel free...I'm not hiding anything."
He also agreed to allow police to take soil samples if they wanted.
"Bring boots," Pickton advised the officers, who never took Pickton up on his offer.
Connor had been the lead investigator on the knife attack by Pickton on March 23, 1997, which resulted in Pickton being charged with attempted murder and unlawful confinement.
Connor said he felt it was a "slam-dunk" case until the prosecutor, Randi Connor, phoned days before trial and said she was dropping the charges because the victim was back addicted to heroin, making her unreliable.
Ward pointed out Wednesday that during the 2000 police interview with Pickton, the officer allowed Pickton's friend, Gina Houston, to sit in and was "getting in the way." Connor conceded "she was certainly answering questions on his behalf."
Yurkiw had tried to arrange an interview with Pickton in September 1999 but his brother, Dave Pickton, successfully put off the interview for four months.
Dave Pickton told Yurkiw police would have to wait until the rainy season, when the Pickton brothers weren't so busy with their demolition business.
At the time of the Pickton interview in 2000, police had received tips from three informants who suggested Pickton was responsible for the dozens of women going missing from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.
The informants said that Pickton had bragged he could get rid of bodies and had bags of women's clothing, jewelry and purses, which he kept as "trophies."
Another informant told police that a woman named Lynn Ellingsen had stumbled on Pickton butchering a woman in his barn one night.
Ellingsen was interviewed by police on Aug. 10, 1999, when she denied seeing Pickton with a dead body.
Vancouver police Const. Lori Shenher, who worked on the case from 1998 to 2000, said the Ellingsen interview effectively killed the RCMP investigation.
Connor, however, said the Mounties continued working on the case.
A rookie RCMP officer not working on the Pickton investigation executed a search warrant on Pickton's trailer on Feb. 5, 2002, to look for illegal guns.
The officer found the guns and the identification and personal items belonging to several missing women.
The search of the farm, the largest forensic police operation in Canadian history, found the remains and DNA of 33 women.
Hours after his arrest, Pickton confided to his jail cell mate -- an undercover officer posing as a criminal -- that he killed 49 women and planned to kill more.
Pickton, now 62, was convicted of six murder at his first trial in 2007.
After exhausting all appeals, the Crown decided not to proceed on a second murder trial involving another 20 counts of first-degree murder.
The inquiry, which began hearings last Oct. 11, will continue Thursday with Connor under cross-examination.
email@example.comPolice interview of Robert Pickton
Updated: August 21, 2016